3 - Contexts of acculturation  pp. 27-42

Contexts of acculturation

By John W. Berry

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Introduction

As we have seen in Chapter 2, acculturation is a process of cultural and psychological change that results from the continuing contact between people of different cultural backgrounds. Following initial contact, most of these contact situations result in the development of societies that have more than one cultural, linguistic or religious entity living in them. As a result, most acculturation research has taken place in societies that are culturally plural. In this chapter, we consider the nature of these societies, and some of their salient dimensions. Second, we provide a typology of the kinds of groups that make up plural societies, including such groups as indigenous peoples, immigrants, sojourners and ethnocultural communities. Third, we present one of the core ideas that underlies much contemporary work on acculturation: there are large group and individual differences in how people go about their lives during this process, which we refer to as acculturation strategies.

Plural societies

A culturally plural society is one in which a number of different cultural or ethnic groups reside together within a shared social and political framework (Skelton & Allen, 1999). There are two key aspects to this concept: the continuity (or not) of diverse cultural communities; and the participation (or not) of these communities in the daily life of the plural society.

The first aspect conveys the idea that there could be a unicultural society that has one culture and one people. While it used to be the case that such unicultural societies actually existed, it is now obvious that there is no contemporary society in which one culture, one language, one religion and one single identity characterizes the whole population.